Searching for Work While Shackled
by Augie Torres
My name is Augie Torres and I served 20 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections from 1994–2014. Upon my release from prison, I was made to serve an additional 60 days on house arrest wearing an electronic monitoring device.
Sixty days may not seem like a lot of time, but what made those days so critical was that during that time period I was attempting to get my life back together. I was looking for employment, trying to obtain forms of identification, and enroll in and attend programs which would help with my reentry process.
But I was only given permission to leave my home three times a week for seven hours at a time. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8 am to 3 pm. If I needed to leave my home for any reason on any other day or at any other time, I would need to request permission from my parole officer during his regular work hours.
I missed employment opportunities due to me not being able to secure permission to go to job interviews on short notice—because I wasn’t able to connect with my parole officer. Employers would contact me late in the afternoon or early in the evening and ask me if I could come in for an interview the following day and I would hesitantly say yes, knowing that it would all hinge on whether I could get a hold of my parole officer the next morning. I would leave a message for my parole officer on his voicemail letting him know that I had been asked to meet with an employer the following morning, but I would get up early for the interview and wait by the door with my phone in my hand, repeatedly dialing my parole officer’s number in hopes of reaching him—only to be greeted by his voicemail.
This happened several times and created a hopelessness which led me to stop seeking employment. I decided to wait until I was released from house arrest to continue my job search.
The same week I was taken off the monitor I was able to secure employment—after I was able to meet with an employer for an interview on short notice.
I would get up early for the interview and wait by the door with my phone in my hand, repeatedly dialing my parole officer’s number in hopes of reaching him — only to be greeted by his voicemail.
My experience with electronic monitoring (EM) and house arrest filled me with anxiety and despair. It led me to give up on searching for work due to the overwhelming frustration I experienced. I was fortunate that I was only on house arrest for 60 days and I was fortunate to have an amazing support system which encouraged me to postpone my job search in order to avoid further distress. Others are not as fortunate and securing employment as soon as possible is a crucial component to their successful reentry.
After four years of hard work and returning to school to finish my degree, while working full time, I am now the Director of Family & Community Engagement Efforts at Edovo, one of the fastest growing telecommunications companies in the country.
My story could easily have been similar to many who have had to endure months and sometimes years of EM only to end up back in prison due to a minor violation of the EM conditions. I am blessed to have made it through that ordeal with minimal consequences to my professional development, but I am writing this in hopes that much needed change takes place in order to give returning citizens a true second chance.
Augie M. Torres spent 20 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. He is a member of the University of Illinois Education Justice Project, the Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network, and the Illinois Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Children. His previous work includes positions at the University of Illinois Education Justice Project, CureViolence Chicago-UIC and Instituto Del Progreso Latino. Augie currently works at Edovo which is a Chicago-based, mission-driven and research-focused social impact company whose mission is to help everyone connected to incarceration build better lives.